Thankful but not proud

In between classes last week, I heard a news report about Rick Perry forgetting the third government agency that’s “gone” when he gets to the White House. To be sure, the report didn’t make me proud of American politics.

But then, I heard a girl saying something even more embarrassing. “I am not thankful to live in America by any means,” she announced shortly before marching her oh-so-offended sensibilities out of the room.

Maybe it’s just a phase brought on by all those “I’m thankful for…” Facebook posts, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my life is, and how my life could be.

Call it trite, but I’m thankful to live in a first-world country. I’m thankful for the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble and all the collaborative communication that emerges thereof.

Now before you stop me, I’ve never been a red, white and blue-blooded nationalist. Snooki embarrasses me, the choice to go to war in Iraq made me cringe and I still don’t get all the hype about the McRib.

I like to watch fireworks, but Independence Day typically finds me wondering what “proud to be an American” even means. I’ve identified with students, with journalists, with the passengers on a Greyhound Bus driving from L.A. to Phoenix. But I’ve never really located that unifying quality that’s supposed to make me one with my fellow Americans.

Nonetheless, I am tremendously thankful to be here. Proud? Not so much. But there’s a difference between thankfulness and pride.

Those who are less than delighted by U.S. cultural and political runoff raise valid points — often more valid than I’d like to believe.

Last week, MSNBC political commentator Rachel Maddow found so many bizarre, unprofessional points in Herman Cain’s presidential campaign that she concluded it can’t even be real. “This is about politics, but this is not politics. This is art,” she announced.

He quoted Pokémon in his presidential debate closing statement. He expressed contentment with not knowing the capitals of foreign countries, or even how to pronounce their names. He’s never heard of the neo-conservative movement. So no, I’m not proud.

Almost 34 percent of American adults are obese. But according to a USA Today story, that statistic hasn’t stopped Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut from lobbying for permission to accept food stamps.

The easiest meals available to the lowest economic might soon include the Fiesta Taco Salad — complete with 42 grams of fat. Yet again, not exactly proud.

But hey — unhealthy or not, at least I have enough food. According to the World Food Programme’s website, 925 million people don’t. And 98 percent of those people live in developing countries.

There are more starving people on earth than the combined population of the U.S., Canada and the European Union. I feel pretty lucky to not be among them.

Of course, complacency is dangerous. Anyone who’s lived in Tempe can tell you hunger isn’t limited to developing nations. But we have unrestricted access to one of today’s most powerful communication tools — the Internet. And with that, we can combat anything.

So don’t denounce wealth and opportunity — even if it is being used to promote the next episode of Jersey Shore. Instead, be thankful and turn it around. Use it to fuel a campaign against hunger — or against dumb politicians.


Reach the columnist at Click here to subscribe to the daily State Press newsletter.

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.